Jan Mar 2018

Devotion to St Cajetan at Vittoriosa

The town of Hamrun was en fete celebrating the 500th anniversary from the mystical apparitions of Our Lady and Baby Jesus to St Cajetan dei Conti of Thiene in 1517 during which she presented him Baby Jesus to hold. Various activities were held including a musical concert and a devotional pilgrimage. The parish church of Hamrun was dedicated to St Cajetan on the behest of the Bishop of Malta, Mons Gaetano Pace Forno OSA (1857-1874) as it was his namesake. It is very likely that Dun George Preca, founder of the MUSEUM Society of Christian Doctrine, who lived at Hamrun, was inspired by these extraordinary apparitions of St Cajetan and the saint’s association with Baby Jesus, to introduce for the first time in Malta of the holding of a procession by young children with the statue of Baby Jesus on Christmas Eve. However, at Vittoriosa, since the middle of the 18th century, a small statue of Baby Jesus had been placed on the altar in an oval marble niche in the side chapel of St Lawrence Church dedicated to St. Catherine. This statue used to be carried from the chapel to the High Altar during midnight Mass on Christmas. It was at this time that the altarpiece by Rocco Buhagiar depicting the Mystical Wedding of St Catherine was commissioned. St Cajetan stands out among the saints accompanying St Catherine in the painting. It is to be noted that in the Mdina Cathedral there is a side chapel dedicated to St Cajetan decked by a painting showing the saint’s vision of Our Lady and Baby Jesus. This chapel was patronised by the Castelletti family which had roots at Vittoriosa, so much so that a large marble tombstone with the Castelletti coat-of-arms can still be seen at St Lawrence Church.

16 January 1941 war victims remembered

The annual commemoration to honour the war victims of Vittoriosa, notably the tragedy of the bombing and destruction of the Aura Capitolaris was held at St Lawrence Church. It was on the afternoon of that fateful 16 January 1941, when HMS Illustrious had just berthed in Grand Harbour, that the violence of the Luftwaffe swept over Malta leaving numerous victims. After a speech for the occasion delivered by Maria Ciappara, for many years Head Mistress at Carlo Diacono Secondary School, Zejtun, wreaths were laid at the foot of the War Memorial on St Lawrence Church Parvis.

Ginger Ale factory at Vittoriosa

Simon Mercieca traces the history of beer making at the turn of the 20th century at his native city, Cospicua, in The Independent on Sunday. He was prompted to research the subject after he was contacted a Polish archaeologist who informed him of the discovery of a beer glass bottle bearing the name of the brewery in Cospicua and in particular that of the Callus Family. During the 1930’s they were still distributing beer across the Cottonera area. It should be recalled that a similar interesting find of a ginger ale glass bottle, recovered from the sea bed in Grand Harbour some years ago, bore the location of the manufacturer at Vittoriosa. A photograph of the ginger ale glass bottle is exhibited at the St Joseph Oratory Museum, Vittoriosa.

Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament

Lorenzo Zahra, writing in the St Paul’s Shipwreck feast programme booklet, outlines details from an inventory of 1736 he discovered of the belongings of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament hosted at St Paul’s Shipwreck Collegiate, Valletta, since its foundation in 1714. A similar Confraternity was hosted at St Lawrence Church, Vittoriosa, dating to 1575. Of the six Confraternities at Vittoriosa, it was the one which was given precedence during the feast of St Lawrence as its members were given the privilege to bear the statue of the saint during the procession on his feast-day.

St. Lawrence Band newsletter Jan-Feb 2018

The Band’s President, Lawrence V. Farrugia, proudly announced the forthcoming celebrations to be held during 2018 to commemorate the 135 anniversary of the Band’s foundation in 1883 and the launch of the logo for the occasion. He nonetheless points out that at Vittoriosa a band had already existed much earlier, even since the 1860s. The principal article in the newsletter is Anton Attard’s contribution about the erudite Vittoriosa-born author Joseph Attard who was a novelist of international renown and a historian. He refers to Vittoriosa in many of his writings. Paul Micallef this time picks up Rev. Can. Karm Busuttil, the new Archpriest of Vittoriosa, for his usual interview. The Archpriest is from Zurrieq and is involved in numerous pastoral initiatives. He is qualified in theology and is in diplomatic studies, boasting a degree as Magister Juris. He is making his mark felt by his optimism and enthusiasm to lead the Vittoriosa parish.

St. Lawrence Band visit to Sicily

During the second weekend of 2018, the St Lawrence Band was invited to participate in the feast of San Mauro, celebrated in the town of Viagrande, Sicily. This was the fifth itinerary of the Band in its history. The band, which was accompanied by a contingent of supporters, registered a successful performance.

St Lawrence Band in V18

It was a highly appreciated honour for the St Lawrence Band to take part in the official inaugural manifestation of the V18 – Valletta European City of Culture celebrations, the year-long programme of activities on the occasion of Valletta’s role as European Capital City of Culture. The Band marched along Republic Street, Valletta, led by its band master, Mro. Jonathan Abela.

V18 Inaugural Concert

The organisers of V18 held a number of inaugural orchestral concerts in selected venues around Malta during January 2018. At Vittoriosa, concerts were held at St Lawrence Collegiate Church and at the Malta Maritime Museum. The repertoire included baroque music and jazz.

New Canons for St Lawrence Collegiate Church

The Archbishop’s Curia has nominated five diocesan priests to be appointed Canons and be part of the Chapter of St Lawrence Collegiate Church, Vittoriosa namley, Can. Brendan Mark Gatt, Can. Stephen Attard, Can. Keith Scicluna, Can. Joe Galea, and Can. David Torpiano. They will provide much needed support to the pastoral services in the Vittoriosa parish and assistance to the designate Archpriest, Can. Carmelo Busuttil.

Ash Wednesday at Vittoriosa

Archpriest Can. Carmelo Busuttil decided to give a dignified start to the Lent. The liturgy of Ash Wednesday started with a penitentiary pilgrimage from the monastic Benedictine church of St Scholastica, across Vittoriosa Square and to St Lawrence Church with the participation of the clergy, religious societies and the public. A contingent of Knights from the Sovereign Military Order of Malta also took part in the procession.

Monument to former Can. Dun Guzepp Caruana

From contributions made by various benefactors and with the help of the Vittoriosa Local Council, a monument was unveiled on the St Lawrence Church Parvis, close to the side entrance to the church, in memory of Can. Joe Caruana from Vittoriosa, simply known as Dun Guzepp. Since his ordination in 1958 until his demise in 2016, he was always ministering to the faithful at St Lawrence parish church. He nourished his priestly vocation when he was a member of the Christian Doctrine Society, the MUSEUM, which he continued to admire throughout his life. The ceremony included reading of poems, musical intervals, address by the Archpriest and the Mayor, and a biographical speech by Vittoriosa MUSEUM member George Agius. The Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society was represented by President, Anton Attard. The monument was cast in Italy to the design of Vittoriosa artist Andrew Bugeja and was imported by the firm E. Theuma & Co of Valletta.

Mr Orenzio Scerri passed away

Mr Orenzio Scerri passed peacefully away at the age of 92, mourned by his three sons and their families. He is well remembered for his voluntary work around St Lawrence Church. When the Parish Museum was opened in 1990 by the incumbent Archpriest, Can. Paul Raggio and the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society, he was among the first group who offered their free services as Museum custodians. In his earlier years, he was an assiduous member of the Catholic Action. His Funeral Mass was led by the Archpriest, Can. Carm Busuttil, while Can. Paul Raggio and Rev. John Avellino concelebrated. The Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society was represented by Treasurer, Lawrence Zahra, who signed the book of condolences on behalf of the Society.

Our Lady of Victory Chapel at Naxxar

Malta’s wayside chapels are being serialised in the weekly, Il-Lehen, with a brief historical sketch accompanied by a picture. The latest to be featured in the series is the twin chapel of Our Lady of Victory and of St Lucia at Naxxar. The former already existed in 1594. It was rebuilt in 1618 when an altarpiece showing the Nativity of Our Lady was installed. In 1771 two other side paintings were added: one depicting Our Lady with St Paul and St Cajetan and the other the Martyrdom of St Lawrence.

Malta Maritime Museum-Royal Navy cooperation

The Malta Maritime Museum at Vittoriosa has concluded a research and expertise cooperation agreement with the Royal navy, intended to foster reciprocal awareness of the maritime heritage. The memorandum was signed at Vittoriosa by Heritage Malta and the Royal Navy National Museum.

Vittoriosa wine

The Italian Cultural Institute organises periodic talks of general interest to the public at their Valletta premises. A recent presentation was about famous Italian wines. At the end of the event, participants were treated with a glass of wine, with the compliments of Sottovento Restaurant of Vittoriosa.

The Macina at Senglea and its counterpart bastion at Vittoriosa

The Macina at the Sheer Bastion at Senglea supported large wooden sheers during the time of the Order. These served to haul up masts from galleys for maintenance purposes while the galley hulk was dragged onto the arsenal slipway on the other side of the creek at Vittoriosa. During the early British period the sheers were replaced by iron ones but were used for the same purpose until they became obsolete. They were finally dismantled in 1929. Over the years the Macina and its environs were put to different uses by the British Naval authorities. After the closure of the British Services Base in 1979, the area was used a headquarters of the Labour Party. Recently, it has been converted into a boutique hotel. Michael Cassar in The Sunday Times of Malta, gives a detailed narrative of the transformation of the Macina. It should be recalled at on the Vittoriosa side and facing the Sheer Bastion, there used to exist a similar bastion rising from sea-level, forming part of the Post of Aragon. This, together with the Senglea Bastion, provided landside defence to the southern entrance to the Galley Creek. The Post of Aragon bastion on the Vittoriosa side was blown up and totally destroyed in a massive explosion that occurred in 1806 and which left some 160 civilian victims. The area is still called L-Imgarraf (The Ruin).

Strategy for the Cottonera

The government has commissioned Mr Glenn Bedingfield MP to put together a strategy for the Cottonera for the coming years. The strategy will cover all aspects of life in The Three Cities. As a first step, in order to gather groundwork information for the purpose, Mr Bedingfield held a series of meetings with associations and clubs in Vittoriosa, Cospicua, Sengela and Kalkara. The Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society also had its turn, with a meeting at Parliament Building with a Committee delegation led by the President, Anton Attard. Various suggestions and ideas for improvements at Vittoriosa were voiced and a written memorandum was submitted.

Cathecism teaching at Vittoriosa during the 19th century

Anton Attard is featured in a detailed article in the Malta Folklore Society’s annual review L-Imnara. The article is about the teaching of Christian doctrine at Vittoriosa before the foundation by Dun Gorg Preca of the MUSEUM in 1907. The teaching of religion to youngsters was in the hands of lay members of the Congregation of Christian Doctrine which existed during the mid-19th century. Classes were held mainly in the small Church of the Assumption which adjoined the Sacristy of St Lawrence Church before it was destroyed by bombing during the last war. The author derived most of the data for the article from a manuscript unearthed in the archives of the Collegiate Archives of St Lawrence Church by the late Can. Dun Guzepp Caruana.

Memories of Sliema street vendor

George Cilia, member of the Vittoriosa Historial & Cultural Society, while retaining a strong affinity with his native city, Vittoriosa, has been residing at Sliema for several years. He recalls how life was at Sliema in the 1970s. One of the characters that comes to his mind is Kalang, the vendor of peanuts who used to hanker around the Sliema sea-front. The author describes the fortunes and isfortunes of Kalang in an article in L-Imnara.

Demise of Benedictine nun

Sister Gertrude Gialanze’ from the Benedictine Monastery of St. Scholastica, Vittoriosa, passed away peacefully at the age of 86. Of these, she spent 66 in monastic seclusion. Her demise was mourned by the Benedictine nuns and the Vittoriosa community.

Bank of Valletta seminar at Malta Maritime Museum

Bank of Valletta and accounting firm KPMG teamed up with Heritage Malta in an original initiative: they held a seminar as part of their public educational programmes at the Maritime Museum, Vittoriosa. The seminar, which was about succession in small enterprises, ended with a reception featuring food that was served on the galleys in the 18th century. The research for this treat was done by the Maritime Museum curator, Liam Gauci.

San Lawrenz parish at Gozo celebration

The small Gozitan community of the village of San Lawrenz celebrated the 125th anniversary since the elevation of the parish by Pope Leon XIII. Apart from various outdoor cultural activities, the keynote commemoration was a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving by H.G. Mons. Mario Grech, Bishop of Gozo. The origin of the village of San Lawrenz actually goes back many years: it was already in existence during Dragut’s siege of Gozo of 1551.

Restoration of Mattia Preti’s titular painting of St Lawrence

After several months of delay, the restoration of Mattia Preti’s massive titular painting depicting the Martyrdom of St Lawrence at St Lawrence Church, Vittoriosa, has been taken on. It is being executed by ReCoop of Birkirkara. The painting had been dismantled from its situs in St Lawrence Church choir last summer and transferred temporarily to the nearby Oratory of the Holy Crucifix where the restoration work is being done. Chief conservator from ReCoop, Mr Paul Muscat, delivered a talk, accompanied by a powerpoint presentation, on the processes involved. Members from the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society attended.

Visit by Friends of Malta Wayside Chapels Society

Members of the Ghaqda Hbieb tal-Kappelli Maltin, led by Louis Fenech, visited Vittoriosa and headed to the Church of the Benedictine Monastery of St Scholostica. The group was admitted to the church and the monastery cloister by kind permission of the Rev. Abbess and was shown round by a representative of the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society. Afterwards, they visited the Oratory of the Holy Crucifix.

St Lawrence Band Club newsletter: March-April 2018

A group picture of the band posing in front of the Cathedral of San Mauro at Viagrande, Sicily, is splashed across the front cover of this issue. The band had been at Viagrande for the feast of San Mauro, as guest of the local council. The editorial lauds the success of the band’s Sicilian venture while looking ahead for the visit to Vittoriosa for the feast of St Lawrence of the Viagrande philharmonic band. Anton Attard’s historical article in this issue is in two parts: the first part is about the city’s upsurge as a result of the arrival of the arrival of the Knights in 1530; the second part is the feast of St Lawrence during the 19th century. Paul Micallef’s newsletter interview is with Vittoriosa artist and decorator Andrew Bugeja. He has established himself as a renowned statue-maker.

Carlo Darmanin at Sta Venera

The feast programme of Sta Venera carried an article that refers to artist Carlo Darmanin (1825-1909) from Cospicua, who in his later years set up his workshop at Sta Venera. Carlo Darmanin had been engaged by the Benedictine nuns of St Scholoastica of Vittoriosa to make for them the statue-reliquary of St Veneranda also known as St Venera.

Mons. Alfred Xuereb’s episcopal consecration

Mons. Alfred Xuereb from Gozo had been assigned official roles at the Vatican Curia until he was recently appointed Nuncio for South Korea and Mongolia and coordinator for North Korea and China. His consecration as the hands of H.H. Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Basilica was attended by the College of Cardinals, among whom Vittoriosa-born Cardinal Prospero Grech OSA.

Good Friday and Easter at Vittoriosa

As in previous years the St Lawrence Band participated to the full during the Good Friday procession and Easter festivity. On Palm Sunday a programme of funeral music was held at Vittoriosa Square, jointly with the St Joseph Band of Kalkara, under the direction of Assistant Director Francois Borg. The route of Good Friday procession was this year extended. Easter ended with as mishap: when the wooden statute of the Risen Christ was being carried on the traditional run at the Post of Allemgne, it hit a telecoms wire and the arm of the statue that held the flag was severed. Archpriest Can. Karm Busuttil was reported as saying that he has already started discussions for the repair of the damage.